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12 Thoughts on This Week in the Big 12: Big 12’s NCAA Tournament Apologists, Coaches on the Hot Seat + More!

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1) There are Big 12 apologists out there pushing the theory that the strength of the Big 12 caused the teams to be “worn down” by NCAA Tournament time. Frankly, that’s a bunch of BS. The Big 12 simply did not live up to their billing as the ‘best conference in America.’ The Big 12 went 3-4 in their first round games, while the ACC went 6-0, Pac 12 4-0, and the Big Ten 5-2. Add in the fact that two of their 4 losses were as 3 seeds to 14 seeds, and all in all it was a very embarrassing and disappointing weekend for the Big 12.
Sure, a one-and-done format does not take away everything the conference did and proved in the non-conference schedule (winning at an 83% clip). But, a 5-2 first round mark, and having at least 3 team reach the Sweet 16 would have been an ideal way to back up the ‘best conference’ mantra. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.


2) Well, with the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in the books, there were certain things I was right about, and certain ones I totally whiffed on. All season long I felt Kansas was over ranked, overrated, and that Bill Self had done the best coaching job during his Kansas tenure to lead this team to a Big 12 Championship. Also, Oklahoma State entered the Tournament losing six of seven, with a coach in Travis Ford that has one NCAA Tournament win on his resume, back during his first season (2009) in Stillwater. There was no first round spread that I felt better about than Oregon -1.5 vs. Oklahoma State.


3) Where I was wrong: I believed Baylor was a dark horse to make a Final 4 run. Damn. That sure didn’t work out. Yes, Baylor blew a big lead late against Georgia State, but in fairness Ron Hunter and his son RJ provided us with one of the greatest moments of the NCAA Tournament. So, I don’t feel as bad about it!


Also, I blew it with Texas. I thought the Longhorns, who had turned things around late in the season, and appeared to be playing some of their best basketball, put up a complete stinker in a loss to Butler (56-48 L). It’s amazing this team was thought to be the Big 12 preseason favorite, and at one point was ranked #6 in the country.


4) This leads me to Rick Barnes, who just finished his 17th, and most disappointing season since coming to Austin. I don’t like lobbying for anyone to lose their job, but if Texas AD Steve Patterson chose to go in a different direction, it would be very understandable. Remember, Barnes is not a Patterson hire, he is a leftover from the DeLoss Dodds regime. Barnes has not reached a Sweet 16 since 2008. In 17 seasons, he has five Sweet 16’s, which includes two Elite 8’s and one Final 4 (2003). For a University with their resources, along with the recruits Barnes has brought in, the resume leaves something to be desired.


5) As for another coach who might be feeling some heat: Oklahoma State’s Travis Ford. Ultimately, I don’t think he goes anywhere because of the often-discussed 10-year contract he’s currently in the middle of. But, once again, Oklahoma State stumbles down the stretch and loses their first game in the NCAA Tournament. Travis Ford still can claim just one NCAA Tournament victory since his arrival in 2008. One. Let that sink in. I hope he gives his agent a nice Christmas gift ever year. That may be the only reason he’s held onto his job.


6) Now for a coach who deserves praise: Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger, who just became the first coach to take 4 different programs to a Sweet 16. Amazing career, and arguably the most underrated coach in the Country. Give Kruger’s Sooners credit for having to knock off a team on a magical run (Albany), and then a Dayton team that was practically playing in their backyard (Columbus).


7) So, Kansas and Wichita State played their first game since 1993, and it lived up to the billing. Sure the final score won’t tell you that, but the game was intense, passionate, and had the rivalry feel that one would expect between these two teams. I realize it’s a “no win” situation for the Jayhawks, but these teams should try to hook up during the non-conference schedule, at least on occasion. Kansas will say they already play an in-state rival in K-State twice per season. But, something about the Shockers, smaller conference, big brother versus little brother feel, that is intriguing. I relate it to my alma mater Villanova, who plays “little brother” St. Joe’s every season. Villanova is, traditionally, the better program, in the bigger conference, and ahem, the better University. But, the game is always looked forward to by both fan bases.


8) There is no Sweet 16 game I am looking forward to more than West Virginia against Kentucky. I suppose the game may end up a complete route by the Wildcats. But, seeing WVU’s never ending full-court pressure against Kentucky will be, at least for a few minutes, very interesting. Also, I do not want to lose Bob Huggins, who has been extra salty this NCAA Tournament season! Huggins has seemingly ripped every broadcaster at CBS, to the ‘sideline guy’ during his weekend in Omaha (Evan Washburn, nice TV look, but gotta loosen up pal!). Plus, the last time West Virginia made the Sweet 16 (2010), they beat Kentucky to reach the Final 4. Could history repeat itself?


9) Don’t forget, we have two football powerhouses meeting up in the Sweet 16: Oklahoma vs. Michigan State. I’m sure both fan bases, secretly, wouldn’t mind if this game were instead being played as a semi-final in the College Football Playoff, but, nonetheless, both schools will take it! The winner of this game has a great chance to make the Final 4, because the other two teams left in the East, Louisville and NC State, are incredibly inconsistent.

Here is our Big 12 tweet of the week. When the Longhorns fans are pulling for the Sooners… you know it’s been a dire few days for the Big 12.
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So, our one Big 12 football note this week, Baylor held their spring game on Friday night under the lights at McLane Stadium. I get excited just reading the game recaps. My initial instincts tell me that Seth Russell is going to fit in quite nicely with Art Briles’ system. I hate to say Bears fans will forget Bryce Petty, but…. they might forget Bryce Petty. Russell may not be quite as good a passer as Petty,  but he has the wheels Petty doesn’t have, which adds a nice element to the offense.

We gave you our picks against the spread for all the NCAA Tournament games involving Big 12 teams. The final tally was 6-4 on the weekend, making us 20-12-1 in the Big 12 hoops season. There will be picks, with a write up, to come on the OU/Michigan State and WVU/Kentucky games later this week.

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